Attention all heterosexual men: If you want to become a chick magnet, try wearing red.
A new study shows that women are sexually attracted to men in red, far more than any other colour.
"They not only view them as more attractive but they want to have sex with them more," said the lead researcher, Andrew Elliot, a psychology professor at the University of Rochester.
So what's the allure? At some deep instinctual level, the colour red conveys a sense of power.
"Red is a status indicator and women like guys who are high in status … they are more likely to earn lots of money," he said. In other words, women perceive that men in red are potentially good providers for their offspring.
Dr. Elliot said there are many examples of red being equated to status and power. "They roll out the red carpet when an important dignitary arrives," he noted.
Findings from the study seem to apply to women in general and aren't restricted to just one country or culture. The research involved a total of 288 females in the United States, Britain, Germany and China.
To measure the red effect, the researchers gauged women's responses to pictures of men in different colour settings. In one experiment, the shirt of the man in the photo was digitally altered so it was either red or another colour. In another test, the frame or the background colour was changed.
In each of these situations, women found men more appealing when they were shown wearing red or surrounded by red, according to the results published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The same man was rated a full point higher on a nine-point attractiveness scale when wearing a red shirt, compared with other colours.
Two years ago, Dr. Elliot published a similar study that focused on the colour preferences of men. That study found that men are attracted to the lady in red. In the minds of men, however, red signified that a woman is sexually available - not necessarily that she is powerful.
So, even though both sexes are drawn to red, it seems to be for different reasons.
Dr. Elliot believes red's appeal has biological roots. He noted that red is used as a sexual signal for many animal species. In the case of human females, it seems to be working on a subconscious level.
"Women aren't aware of the fact that they are more attracted to guys in red, but they are nevertheless showing that in their ratings," he said. "Clearly this is an effect that is under the radar."
But before you get too excited, gentlemen, Dr. Elliot cautions that the colour red can't work miracles. "What we are talking about is just bumping up a man's attractiveness ... and that could increase his likelihood of attracting females." If a guy isn't the least bit attractive, then donning a red T-shirt or flashing a red "power" tie won't bring the supermodels running.